Forget the maths, Beale's the standout number
Both lucid and frugal ... Kurtley Beale has blossomed in the No.10 role. Photo: Quinn Rooney
It seems to be that time of year when Super Rugby coaches turn to their ability as mathematicians as much as their knowledge of rugby.
The various permutations and complications of whether or not they will make the playoffs, combined with the fact you need more than an average abacus to navigate your way around the restrictions of salary caps and budgets, create a complex environment.
Of course the calculations demanded by the Chiefs, Bulls, Brumbies and Stormers require less intellect than the maths confronting the Reds, Waratahs and Sharks.
And at this point, sadly for their supporters, there's no need to go beyond basic extremities when doing the sums for the Lions, Force and Blues. No amount of magic in the numbers can save their season.
Granted, the Waratahs have made it complicated for themselves with another narrow loss at the death, this time to the Bulls.
But given the vagaries of this competition, I wouldn't automatically assume they are out of the picture.
Despite suffering from a lack of experience, composure at key moments and depth in certain positions means they remain a possible, even if highly improbable, chance of making the playoffs.
As do the Reds who, despite playing their best rugby of the season to date, have also made it more difficult for themselves to qualify than it might have been.
Amid the calculations – just when it seems the maths and logic of the Aristotle, Archimedes and Adam Spencer types among us are taking over the season – sheer inspiration and the wonderful anti-logic of sport appears in the form of the Rebels, reminding us why we devote our hearts and minds to such pursuits in the first place.
The Rebels' awesome 28-19 victory over the Crusaders was more than just an upset. It was franchise defining.
Led by an at-times rabid “Stockade” crowd of more than 18,000, the Rebels played with the survival instincts of ownerless dogs scrapping for meat outside a butchery, combined with the group instinct of a pack of wolves. It's amazing how so much can change over a few weeks.
But make no mistake: this was the biggest day in the Rebels' short history; a victory over “the” side of Super Rugby, the Crusaders; a victory from which legends will be born and from which a new franchise came of age – and a victory allowing them to now close the chapter on their beginning and move to the next stage of their journey with more than reserved optimism.
Of course detractors might argue that this was an understrength Crusaders with the likes of Kieran Reid “rested” on the bench. But that's the nature of this competition and it doesn't account for the fact that their side included both Richie McCaw and Dan Carter (albeit both returning from injury but undoubtedly both still wielding their dominant psychological auras).
While it's useful to be a mathematician, sometimes, it is not so useful to be a logician (depending where you derive your logic, that is).
On some measures, the Rebels' victory could be considered a fluke.
Yet by other yardsticks, derived partly from last week's narrow loss to the Bulls, this was a worthy victory that had been under construction for some time.
Among their team, they had giants. Rodney Blake in the front line and Hugh Pyle right behind him had storming matches, as did Nick Phipps, playing his most authoritative game in two years.
Kurtley Beale was also a standout among many for the Rebels. While a certainty in any Wallaby team, the question arises on the position he should play.
It certainly seems that his prolonged stint at fullback for the Waratahs, Wallabies and Rebels has contributed to making him a better flyhalf. Perhaps this is because the fullback's eye scopes the world of possibilities from a global, rather than local, perspective.
Of all positions in the rugby rectangle, fullback takes in the gamut of patterns of the game like no other, which has allowed Beale to add guile to his genius.
He ran, passed and kicked at the appropriate times, being both lucid and frugal, even with the surfeit of possession he was afforded.
His form, along with the resurgence of the Reds through the likes of Will Genia, Luke Morahan and Scott Higginbotham in their euphoric 42-27 victory over the Chiefs, augers well for some more attractive numbers later in the Super Rugby and Test seasons.